■ The alignment options for South Jackson Street to Yesler Way are shown in this overhead graphic. In red is the track alignment, while orange shows an alternative track alignment. The yellow ‘stars’ are potential stops on the streetcar line. courtesy of Seattle Department of Transportation
■ The alignment options for South Jackson Street to Yesler Way are shown in this overhead graphic. In red is the track alignment, while orange shows an alternative track alignment. The yellow ‘stars’ are potential stops on the streetcar line. courtesy of Seattle Department of Transportation
The streetcar is coming, and it will link the International District and Capitol Hill rapid-transit stations across the east side of First Hill.

Luckily, there is still time to comment on the project, and three meetings have been planned for this week, primarily to allow residents to comment on proposed route alignments.

The first meeting, hosted by the Seattle Department of Transportation, took place Tuesday night at Seattle Central Community College as we went to press.

The other meetings are planned for Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Yesler Community Center, 917 E. Yesler Way, and Thursday, Dec. 17, at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson Street. Both meetings will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.

Seattle government has promised there will be an ongoing public involvement process in the streetcar construction. These meetings are the first step in the process. A final route will be selected by the City Council this spring.

THE ALIGNMENTS

Parts of the proposed route are broken into three segments, each segment having two or three alternatives. On all of the First Hill-to-Capitol Hill segment alternatives, the northernmost segment, the streetcar circles Cal Anderson Park on 11th Avenue, Broadway and Denny Way, passing through the Pike-Pine neighborhood on 11th Avenue.

The middle segment is the Jackson to Yesler Alignment, and the southernmost segment is International District-Pioneer Square.

The three First Hill-to-Capitol Hill alternatives include:

•Broadway to Madison - north and southeast on Madison to 11th Avenue and circle the park;

•North on Broadway to Denny Way - Circle the park on 11th Avenue, change over to 12th Avenue at Madison and south to Yesler or Boren Avenue, past Bailey Gatzert Elementary School; or

•Broadway to Boren Avenue - north on Boren Avenue to Seneca or Boylston streets, east on Union Street to 11th Avenue and circle Cal Anderson Park.

The two choices on the Jackson to Yesler Alignment are to turn off Jackson at 14th Avenue and circle Bailey Gatzert Elementary School or turn on 12th and circle through Yesler Terrace on Yesler.

All routes go north and south on South Jackson Street to Fifth Avenue. If the route stops there, it will loop on South Weller Street. Otherwise, it will continue down Jackson to Second Avenue, go north on South Main Street, in the heart of Pioneer Square, and then across Fifth Avenue back to Jackson.

It is easier to understand with a map before your eyes, and easier still by going to the Seattle Department of Transportation website and seeing the maps posted at www.seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.asp about halfway down the page, under Alignment Alternatives.

A SHORTER WAIT

Whether to build the line is not at issue. Voters approved Sound Transit 2 in November 2008, and it fully funds the First Hill Streetcar line construction and operation up to $120 million in 2007 dollars.

Seattle is building the First Hill Streetcar line through an agreement with Sound Transit. Although originally estimated for completion in 2016, new estimates move the operation start date to fall 2013.

As proposed, the 2-mile streetcar line would serve Capitol Hill, First Hill and the International District areas with connections to Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail. The route would also serve First Hill medical centers, Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University.

Among questions that have been considered so far in the streetcar route alignment are:

•Whether the streetcar could be routed on 12th Avenue instead of Boren Avenue and Broadway;

•What streets have the best grades for a streetcar; and

•How to integrate the streetcar line with the proposed reconstruction of the Yesler Terrace public housing development.

Sound Transit originally planned a Link light rail station on First Hill between Westlake and Capitol Hill, but potential engineering problems, mainly due to soil conditions and tight turnarounds, stopped that track.

The First Hill Streetcar was added to the construction in lieu of the Link light-rail station.

The final alignment of the streetcar route is not yet determined and will go through the Environmental Impact Statement process until 2011.